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2nd April 2001
Connah's Quay Reserve.

Appeal For Wardens at Gronant.
Clwyd Bird Report.
Latest Bird Counts.
March Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

 


DNS/Powergen Connah's Quay Reserve 
Review of Year 2000

    The Deeside Naturalists' Society/Powergen Connah's Quay Reserve is located next to the Connah's Power Station which can be seen from the new Dee Bridge and accessed from the A548 (click here for map and directions - reserve marked "5" on the map). It has several hides, the main one being the West Hide which overlooks the Oakenholt RSPB reserve - not open to either the general public or RSPB members. All the hides overlook the River Dee as it enters the estuary, also on the reserve is a wetland meadow, a large pool with central island, salt marsh and areas of scrub and woodland. It should be noted the the reserve is only open to members of the Deeside Naturalists' Society except on special open days (see monthly Newsletter on this web site for dates). Unfortunately as I write this in mid-March 2001 the reserve is completely closed down because of  foot and mouth restrictions.

The year 2000 started with a refurbished West Hide and Field Studies Centre. The appearance of the two storey grey stone hide was much improved by a coat of white paint, also much improved was the security of the hide which had suffered from vandalism. Birds during the winter included 1,000 Black-tailed Godwit, 500 Redshank, Tree Sparrows, a regular Kingfisher and an excellent selection of raptors - Common buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Merlin.

In the spring and summer breeding birds included Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Canada Goose and Tree Sparrows. It was especially pleasing to see that Skylarks were as abundant as ever.

Members visiting the reserve for high water birdwatching in the autumn were rewarded with views of the largest concentrations of waders for many years. Some 2,200 Black-tailed Godwit were seen on Oakenholt marsh along with 6,000 Oystercatcher, 1000+ Redshank and nearly 1000 Knot. Other waterbirds present in smaller flocks were 750 Teal, 600 Lapwing and up to 100 Dunlin. Little Egret were present for several months with a maximum of three recorded in October. A surprise passage migrant was a Little Stint.

This article consists of extracts from the Deeside Naturalists' Society's Reserve Notes published through the year, with kind permission of  the Deeside Naturalists' Society.

 

Appeal for Voluntary Wardens at Gronant

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Gronant can be an idyllic spot in the summer. I remember my first stint as voluntary warden last June, arriving early on a lovely sunny morning - two Grasshopper Warblers were singing in the marsh whilst a male Stonechat saw me off its territory, as I approached the warden's hut I suddenly became aware of the Little Tern colony, a hundred or so were in the air screeching away before they left to go fishing in the nearby sea - an amazing sight. 

Out to sea a constant stream of Common Scoter were passing westwards, non-breeding birds on their way to their favourite haunt further up the North Wales coast. Later on in the summer I had the privilege of watching the newly fledged Little Tern chicks make their first flight knowing I had helped in their survival, a most pleasing sight.


The RSPB are appealing for voluntary wardens to help protect this colony. The wardening involves keeping predators (mainly crows and foxes) away from the nests, stopping holiday makers from walking through the colony and talking to anybody interested about the terns. As little as half a day a month would be a great help. The wardens are required from late May to early August, if you're interested ring the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

 

Clwyd Bird Report 1993 to 1995

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The recently re-activated Clwyd Bird Recording Group have been working hard to bring the Clwyd Bird Reports up to date, the last one was published as long ago as 1992. This is the first of three reports, shortly to be followed by the 1996 to 1998 and 1999 reports.

Clwyd is a varied county which not only has the Welsh shore of the Dee Estuary within its boundaries but also moorland, hill country, forest, rich farmland and the Irish Sea coast (for a more detailed description of Clwyd see my article on the Fat Birder's Web site). This range of habitats is reflected in the systematic species list which totals a creditable 238 and includes such rarities as Red-necked Grebe, Black Kite, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Bee-eater. I found it particularly useful to be able to compare three years' data so easily, and also fascinating to compare the data from the mid-nineties to what we are seeing now - for example only one Waxwing was seen over the whole three years! 

Also in the report are five very interesting articles including 'The Shotton Phoenix' by Ron Plummer about the Shotton Paper Co. lagoons, 'Conservation on the Dee Estuary' and 'Little Terns at Gronant', the latter two both by Andrew Gouldstone then RSPB Assistant Warden on the Dee Estuary.

The report can be obtained from: Gareth Stamp, RSPB, Burton Point Farm, Station Road, Burton, Cheshire. Please enclose cheque for 2.00. You can ring Gareth on 0151 336 7681.

Please send your records for inclusion in future Clwyd Bird reports (including 2000) to the Clwyd County Recorder: Norman Hallas, 63 Park Avenue, Wrexham, LL12 7AW.

 

Bird Counts

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Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 11th March.
Cormorant 5, Brent Goose 20, Shelduck 632, Teal 239, Mallard 9,  Red-breasted Merganser 4, Oystercatcher 1,460, Knot 280, Snipe 6, Black-tailed Godwit 150, Curlew 755, Redshank 1825, Merlin, 2 Peregrine Falcon and Sparrowhawk. 3,000 Redshank seen a few days earlier before the big tides (Dave Wilde)

West Kirby high tide roost, highest count for March carried out by Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens - 8th March.
Ringed Plover 42, Grey Plover 300, Knot 1,000, Sanderling 9, Dunlin 7,000, Bar-tailed Godwit 4 and Redshank 420.  

No WeBS counts or count from Inner Marsh Farm this month due to Foot and Mouth restrictions.

 
March Bird News

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Another excellent weekend of high tide birdwatching at Parkgate during the spring high tides. For a change the tide came in right up to the wall, an amazing sight - as the marsh by the wall is slightly lower than the marsh further out the sea came in almost like a breaking wave along the whole Parkgate sea-front. As for the birds - 5 Short Eared Owls, 17+ Water Rail and 8+ Jack Snipe for starters!
  
This winter has definitely been a good one for Waxwings, and plenty were still around in March with 32 at Upton, 20 at Arrowe Park and 9 in the middle of Heswall.

The cold weather at the beginning of the month coincided with good numbers of waders with 15,000 Knot and 990 Black-tailed Godwit off Caldy, and 3,000 Bar-tailed Godwit with 500 Grey Plover at Leasowe. Redshanks on Heswall Shore increased from 1,000 last month to 3,000, these are mostly Icelandic birds gathering before making their way north - British birds are already on their breeding territory. Hilbre Island's Brent Geese increased to 20 after dropping down to 10 at the end of last month.


Nigel Blake

As you can see from the table below the spring migration is well underway with some very early first sightings. Several species were earlier than last year with the  first sighting of Willow Warbler particularly interesting, as far as I know this is the earliest time a Willow Warbler has been seen in Wirral. The bird was heard singing at the sand dunes by West Kirby after a day of mild southerly winds. Wheatears were ten days later than the previous two years.

Dates of earliest sightings. Locations for 2001.

Species 2001 Location 2000  1999
Willow Warbler 8th March West Kirby 27th March 2nd April
ChiffChaff* 11th March Heswall 13th March 17th March
Blackcap* 12th March West Kirby 31st March Late March
Sand Martin 15th March Hoylake 16th March 27th March
Wheatear 22nd March Burton 12th March 12th March
White Wagtail 24th March Hilbre 17th March mid March
Swallow 28th March Hoylake 2nd April 8th April
Grasshop. W 1st April Red Rocks Mid April Mid April
House Martin     23rd March Late April
Cuckoo     25th April mid April
Swift     27th April late  April

* As small numbers of both Chiffchaff and Blackcap over winter in the area this is the date they were first heard singing.

Hilbre Island is usually a prime spot to see the spring migration and it is no different this year. Highlights included a remarkable 2 to 3,000 Meadow Pipits, 90 Great-crested Grebe, 18 Wheatear, 18 Grey Wagtail, 30 White Wagtail, a Ring Ouzel, an Iceland Gull and the first Sandwich Tern. 

Other interesting sightings were 50 Wheatears at Meols, a Firecrest in Heswall, an Osprey near Mostyn and the first Gannet of the year on the 22nd off Hoylake. An unusual sight was a Woodcock on Hoylake beach, dropped by a passing Peregrine Falcon, the bird was both headless and breastless! My first sighting of a Common Buzzard over Stapledon Woods was further indication of this species remarkable increase in Cheshire and Wirral.

The Greenfield Valley bird survey continues, the total is now 63 birds. Click here for a complete list.

You might be interested in a new Webcam looking onto Hoylake Shore run by a local birder, Jane Turner. The picture isn't brilliant but at least you can tell if the tide is in or out, or whether it's cloudy or sunny. The thing of most interest is that next to the Webcam picture Jane gives regular updates of the birds she is seeing on the shore and in her garden. 

What to expect in April: The numbers of waders and wildfowl on the estuary decrease rapidly during April as they make their way to their breeding grounds. However, we'll start to get waders on passage coming through, both this month and next. These are birds wintering to the south (the majority from France, Morocco and West Africa) on their way to Iceland and Greenland. The species involved are Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Sanderling and, to a lesser extent, Knot. They pass through quickly so the average density is low but if you get the day right some vast flocks can be seen.

The spring migration should become a torrent during April and as I write this we still wait for the first House Martin, Cuckoo, Swift and Common, Arctic and Little Terns. Don't forget to me if you happen to see an early arrival.

Many thanks go to Dave Wilde, John Jones, Alan Jupp,  Brian Roberts, John Gittins, Jeff Clarke, Cathy McGrath,  Mike Hart, Alec Cheney, John Kirkland, Bill Owens, Martyn Jaimeson, Chris Butterworth, Val Burnett, Nick Moss, Jane Turner, Christine Hawkswell, Paul Hurley, Paul Fitzpatrick, Wendy Allen, Phil Lovell and the Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens for their sightings during March. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!

   

Forthcoming Events

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Note that some events may be cancelled because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak. See latest news - click here.

April Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool) 
8th April, 12.24hrs 10.1m. (all times BST)
9th April, 13.05hrs 10.1m.
10th April, 13.44hrs 9.9m.
See Tides page for full tide table.

Note that the marsh at Parkgate may be covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions. Low pressure with strong north-west wind will create higher than expected tide, high pressure with southerly wind means lower than expected tide. 

Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
A group for teenagers jointly run by the RSPB and Wirral Ranger Service.   For all young people (you don't have to be RSPB members) who want to do something to improve our environment and enjoy wildlife. See events for  2001.

Wirral Bird Club
The Wirral Bird Club welcomes all who are interested in birds, from the beginner to the experienced.  See the complete listing of events for 2001

Forthcoming Events (organised by the Wirral Ranger Service, Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
All these events and walks have bird interest, even those not advertised specifically for birdwatching. No need to book for these events unless specified - please check below.

High tide bird watches at Parkgate and Heswall for the whole of 2001 are shown on the high tide birdwatch page. Always check latest newsletter for any additions or changes.

Saturday 7th April 9.00am (HW 11:39, 9.8m) Banks Road Birdwatch, Heswall
Exceptional close views of thousand of waders and wildfowl, together with incoming migrant warblers. Meet Banks Road Car Park. Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Saturday 7th April. Guided Walk to the Hilbre Islands.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4-mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 8th April 2pm - 4pm. A Look at Trees in Spring. 
Join the Ranger on a walk through the woodlands of Royden Park taking a close look at the vast variety of trees and learn how they have influenced our lives with woodland poems. No need to book but best check re. foot and mouth. Meet at the Rangers Office by the car park. For info. ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 8th April 4:30pm - 8:30pm. Marine Biology Walk. 
Join the Rangers from the North Wirral Coastal Park on a specialist guided walk looking at the flora and fauna that have adapted to living in this tidal environment. Warm clothing and wellies essential. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 14th April 6:00am. Early Risers on Hilbre.
A chance to explore the enchanting Dee Estuary Islands in pursuit of migrants. If the weather is right anything from Ring Ouzel to Sandwich Terns may appear. Also many waders will still be around the islands, many in their super breeding plumage. There is a cost of 1 per person. Booking essential. Ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 28th April 6:30pm. Bats & Birds Evening Special.
By ticket only.
CANCELLED unless Inner Marsh Farm RSPB reserve reopens, which seems unlikely at the moment. Ring 0151 336 7681 for info.

Saturday 5th May. Guided Walk to the Hilbre Islands.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4-mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 6th May. International Dawn Chorus Day

Dawn Chorus over Thurstaston Common. 4.30am - 6.30am.
Get up with the lark and listen to the splendour of the dawn chorus over this spectacular part of the Wirral countryside, with tea, coffee and biscuits available afterwards. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371. Note that if Thurstaston Common is still closed this event will be held in Royden Park next door.

Songs in Stapledon Woods. 5am - 7am.
Early birds get the worm on this avian exploration of Stapledon Woods. Join the Rangers for a walk to discover some of the sounds of spring in this wonderful woodland setting. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 6th May. Spring Migrants at Point of Ayr. 8:30am
Waders on passage and feast of summer migrants. (HW 11:00, 9.6m). Meet at end of Station Road, Talacre. This event is going ahead as planned, no need to book. Contact RSPB for information, ring 0151 336 7681.

Friday 11th May. Warblers in the Evening. 6:30pm - 10:00pm.
Start the weekend in relaxing fashion as we undertake a circular walk to enjoy the spring song of warblers in the Thurstaston area. We can expect such delights as rattling Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat and reeling Grasshopper Warbler. Those with stamina can join the late night moth trapping session (weather permitting) at the end of the walk. Meet at Wirral Country Park Visitor Centre, Thurstaston. To book your place ring 0151 648 4371.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2001', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371 or by from myself as a 1.8mb zipped file.